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June 23rd, 2017

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Those birds circling over Hillary Clinton

Wesley Pruden

By Wesley Pruden

Published August 21, 2015

Hillary Clinton may think those creatures making wide, gentle circles over her campaign are bluebirds of happiness, but they're looking more and more like buzzards, and they look hungry.

The news gets grimmer with every news cycle as she revises and extends everything she says about her email machine and the classified information that may be on it. She says she can't remember, and we can believe that much. Sir Walter Scott got it right: "O, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive."

Hillary even upends the famous Washington dictum that "it's not the crime, it's the cover-up." Sometimes it's both.

We're hearing the first hints, some of them not so subtle, that the FBI is investigating more than a security situation, defined as a simple matter of learning whether classified information leaked from the State Department when she was the secretary of State, and if so, who it was leaked to. National Public Radio, which usually feeds only the bluebirds of Democratic happiness, reports that it learned from "two lawyers familiar with the inquiry" that a formal criminal investigation is under consideration, presumably at the Justice Department, and it could happen "soon."

Hillary might not be the first target. She can always somebody else to throw under the bus or feed to the alligators.

The lady has been saying for weeks that nothing on her email server was classified, and recently she revised and extended that to "nothing was classified at the time it was put it on the server." Now she revises and extends still further, arguing that the security classifications are confusing and subject to interpretation.

"She was at worst a passive recipient of unwitting information that subsequently became classified," a spokesman 'splains.' This may be the first time in her life that Hillary, who has been called many things, has been called "passive."

This is beginning to sound like an unwitting reprise of Bubba's famous and hilariously imaginative excuse for his misadventures that everything depends on what the meaning of "is" is. Indeed it do, and time is running out for playing with the language.

Worst of all, if you're Hillary and her campaign, those birds are not all in the regalia of the vast right-wing media conspiracy, but birds with the insignia of skeptics who were only yesterday eager to clear mine fields for her. Now she's on her own.

The New York Times says the controversy over Hillary's email server seems "almost" picayune, and should be easy to "handle." But the questions about it are "durable" and her friends and allies are "increasingly concerned" about whether she has any idea of how to deal with the gathering storm. Nobody's hitting the panic button, but everybody is making sure they know where the button is.

The Clinton camp is looking for unlikely places to take their fears, and maybe that confusing place where the bureaucracies classify documents is a place she should be. "When it comes to classified information," Brian Fallon, her press agent, tells reporters that "the standards are not all black and white, and in the absence of markings that officially designate something as classified, reasonable people each taking their responsibilities extremely seriously, can nonetheless disagree on the character of the information they are dealing with, and both could be completely justified in that perspective."

That's a semi-nice try, but a secretary of State and the people who work for her are not supposed to be that nave. Hillary knew better. "Put legality aside for just a second," says Michael Hayden, a former director of the National Security Administration, "[what she did] was stupid and dangerous."

Mr. Fallon revises and extends further. If the lady was at fault for keeping classified information on her server, aren't others guilty, too? Since the State Department gave the House Benghazi committee information that was likely later deemed "classified," members of that committee may have unwittingly handled classified information, too.

"Now," he said, "I don't think anybody here at the Clinton campaign is going to say that members of [the chairman's] staff should have their computers confiscated." Of course not. Mercy! Heaven forfend. "But let's raise that as an aside." Well, desperate circumstances can inspire desperate excuses.

Rep. John Yarmuth of Kentucky, a loyal Democratic partisan, calls the scandal "confusing," and no doubt speaks for many Americans just now beginning to pay attention. "I just never feel I have a grasp of what the facts," he told reporters Wednesday. "Clearly, she has handled it poorly from the first day. There's the appearance of dishonestly — if it's not dishonest." Appearances are rarely deceiving.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.

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